Mayor’ Gray’s first ever African Youth Town Hall was held on Saturday, April 28 from 12-2 pm at Howard University Middle School for Math and Science located on the Howard University campus. Over 85 youth from elementary, middle and high schools and colleges in the District attended this forum created to provide African youth with an opportunity to voice their ideas, concerns, and recommendations directly to the Mayor.
The town hall kicked off with refreshments and an information fair where youth and their parents received information on college preparation, summer jobs, and other resources they could use for academic and extracurricular purposes.
Director of the DC Youth Advisory Council, Cedric L. Jennings opened the town hall with welcoming remarks, followed by the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs Director, Ngozi Nmezi, who thanked the Mayor for his vision and leadership in creating intentional opportunities for all of the District’s diverse communities to engage with him directly and express their views and concerns.
Four DC students from School Without Walls and from George Washington University partnered to deliver a brief and lighthearted skit highlighting three common experiences of African immigrant youth: linguistic and cultural barriers, bullying and discrimination in diverse schools, and balancing home & school cultures. An 11th Grader at School Without Walls, and a Cameroonian-American student leader of the African Club at her school, Elmina Bell introduced the Mayor and spoke of her efforts to actively build bridges among African youth of diverse backgrounds and African Americans in her school and community.
In his remarks, Mayor Gray acknowledged and thanked his staff for the work they are doing, and touched on his administration’s education-related priorities such as early education, the cradle-to- career initiative, and the Summer Youth Employment program aimed at ensuring that all District students thrive both academically and socially. He then opened the floor for questions and encouraged youth to “come forward not only with questions but also with your ideas, solutions and recommendations.” A Cameroonian senior at Columbia Heights Education Campus, Patience Bekono asked the Mayor about what he can do to support African immigrant students who are enroll as English Language Learners (ELLs) and need additional support to excel and take advanced classes.
This Youth Town Hall initiated per the Mayor’s request was uniquely dedicated to surfacing issues that impact African youth in the District of Columbia and came at the heels of over 5 youth dialogues convened and facilitated by the Office on African Affairs (OAA). In the last four months, OAA convened more than 200 African youth in the District through an African Youth Leadership Roundtable in January, a Youth Mixer in March, and four school-based focus groups in April in which African youth at Brightwood Education Campus, Columbia Heights Education Campus, and Howard University Middle School of Math and Science discussed a wide range of issues and prioritized those they feel impact them most socially, educationally, and economically.